Goodbye to the event?
For many years the TgR website has carried a list of events being organised for the transgender community. Occasionally I review the list and purge a few old entries but recently there is rarely anything new to replace them. So the list on the website steadily shrinks, to the point that I think it is worthy of comment.
Now I don't want to paint a picture that things were better in times past - they weren't. But it is a fact that a few years ago there were plenty of happenings open to anyone who wanted to attend; there were formal events in many capital cities, regular cafe and restaurant nights, and even occasional group social outings. Now there appears to be next to nothing. It appears that events-for-all within the transgender community, whilst not extinct, are definitely a threatened species.
Does this matter? Or is it just a natural evolution as society's acceptance and understanding of gender diversity matures?
Perhaps as the public event list shrinks we have lost the opportunity to appreciate the value we are missing. Looking back at my own life I recognise that those public events gave me an easy opportunity to come-out and helped me to find good friends and companions.
Let's look at those two values in more detail:
Public events gave people an easy opportunity to come-out.
My first tentative steps in public were with Seahorse NSW and I remain grateful for the opportunity to socialise that Seahorse provided through the meetings and events it organised. But in 2016 it really shouldn't be necessary to pay to join a restricted membership club when all you want to do is start socialising in your preferred gender identity. To someone who is just coming out, open events such as balls, restaurant evenings and coffee nights are valuable. They provide an opportunity to turn up and take those scary first public steps in friendly and supportive company. I hear stories of people staying on their own in hotels, venturing out frightened of attracting the wrong attention, and snatching a quick meal or drink on their own. There is no shortage of people coming out but where is the help and encouragement we should be offering them?
Public events helped us to widen our circle of friends and to find companions on our journey.
The diversity of the transgender community is both a weakness and a strength. A weakness because we can so easily fall into the trap of judging, disagreeing with, and criticising others who are 'different' and a strength because somewhere out there we can always find someone who shares our challenges with their gender identity. Many of us look to find "like souls" in the crowd as companions for our journey and from time to time we all seem to need to talk to someone who understands us. Although every month new faces go public about their gender diversity how can you identify and develop friendship with those who share your journey? Meeting new faces in the flesh is, I believe, the only way to form lasting and meaningful friendships, and that is what public events offered. What are we doing instead to help people find their place in our community?
Some have suggested that the recent decline can be attributed to the ease with which one can organise a social life through Facebook. Which leads me to speculate the Catch 22 of a Facebook social life. If you don't have friends on Facebook who share your needs then you won't get invited to any of their social events. But if you don't get invited to events then you won't meet any more people and grow your circle of trusted friends.
There are fewer and fewer people prepared to organise public events, because in all honesty it is hard work for the benefit of others. The organiser of an informal event suggests what they want to do and runs it past their friends to see if they want to join in. In contrast, the organiser of a public event has to make choices that will appeal to the wider diverse group, choices that may well not be what the organiser would personally prefer to do. The price to be paid for organising for others is you can't be sure of getting getting the food you like, or the music you want, or the company you enjoy.
And that I think is the crux of the issue. Public events are primarily organised to help others. And may be we are all too busy thinking of ourselves nowadays to notice that others need what we don't. Altruism sadly seems to be in short supply when it comes to organising our social lives,